Tucson, Ariz. – The Planetary Science Institute has been awarded $5.5 million by NASA to be a research node of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to advance basic and applied research for lunar and planetary science, and advance human exploration of the solar system. The node, known as the Toolbox for Research and Exploration (TREX) project, will be led by PSI Senior Scientist Amanda Hendrix, the Principal Investigator, and funded for five years. The Deputy Principal Investigator for TREX is PSI Senior Scientist Faith Vilas. An additional 18 PSI scientists are on the team.
”TREX aims to develop tools and research methods to prepare for human exploration of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos,” Hendrix said. “We will be determining the detailed characteristics of the surfaces of these objects, which is made challenging by the presence of very fine-grained dust. Another objective is to understand what resources may exist beneath this dust that can be utilized by humans in space.”
The work will include laboratory spectral measurements and experiments accompanying studies of existing spacecraft datasets. “TREX toolbox emphasizes new areas that have not been well-studied. These include probing the properties of fine-grained particles at ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths,” Hendrix said.
“TREX emphasizes fine grains because impact processing at the Moon, the Martian moons and NEOs can produce extremely fine size particles – dust – that have critical effects, both operationally and scientifically, threatening surface operations and confounding and complicating interpretation of conventional remote sensing spectral data,” said Deputy PI Vilas.
TREX will support PSI scientists located in Colorado, Missouri, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, New Mexico, Washington DC, West Virginia, and Texas in additional to several international locations. Other institutions partnering with PSI on this progress include NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Universities Space Research Association, University of Colorado, and University of Illinois. Participating foreign institutions include University of Winnipeg, (Canada) and Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) (Germany).
PSI's TREX SSERVI project now has a Twitter account at